KEENE, BOB
BOB KEENE
(1947 - 2003)

Bob Keene, one of the most prolific Production Designers in live television, designed over 700 television programs dating back to his first design for NBC New Chicago in 1975. While still a student at California State University at Long Beach, he visited one of the television industry’s leading Production Designers, E. Jay Krause, who was then designing a regular stream of Bob Hope, Danny Thomas and Jack Benny Specials at NBC.

Krause had also just started Omega Cinema Props, and Keene took on part-time work there sorting draperies and stacking furniture. After graduating, he moved into Krause’s art department as an assistant; and in 1977, when Krause retired from Art Direction to build the Omega company, Keene stepped in and seamlessly continued the design work.

Keene was best known for his work on live television awards programs. During his twenty-eight year career he designed every major award show, including the Emmy Awards®, the Grammy Awards® (for twenty years), the Tony® Awards and the Academy Awards® twice. He won Emmys for his work on the Richard Simmons Show (1980), the Centennial Olympic Games: Opening Ceremonies (1996) and the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards (2000), and he was nominated twelve other times.

He designed music specials with Sammy Davis, Jr., and the Motown 25th Anniversary Special where Michael Jackson introduced the moonwalk. In addition, he designed those early Bob Hope Specials, numerous talk shows such as Maury Povich, Jenny Jones, Dr. Phil, and The Magic Hour with Magic Johnson, sitcoms such as Harry and the Hendersons and Family Man, and The Arsenio Hall Show in late night. He was nominated six times for the Art Directors Guild Award and won it in 2001 for the 72nd
Annual Academy Awards.

Keene was heavily influenced by current architectural trends. He used to say that Production Design was being an architect, but without the rules. He usually began by building a model of the space in which the design would live and then, using plain white paper and board, creating shapes based on the ideas he had in his mind. Then he would finesse the shapes, continually adding detail and adjusting. When he presented the design to a producer, he would use multiple lights with gels to show how the set worked under different lighting conditions. He prided himself on creating beautifully finished models that truly mimicked the final full scale design, but it was really the process that brought him the most joy. His true passion came out in his office, with his assistants, putting bits of paper together to form something, playing with paint and textures, moving lights around. Time almost stood still during those moments. He would often not answer the phone, or work long after the phones stopped ringing.

Bob was a devoted husband. He and Sharon lived in Nichols Canyon where Bob designed both their home, modeled after Shakespeare’s birthplace, and his contemporary office in a back corner of his property, which won an architectural award in 2002. His assistant and successor, Brian Stonestreet remembers:

“He and Sharon loved to entertain at their home. Every year he had multiple Christmas parties for his church friends as well as work friends, and the house, as you can imagine, looked like something out of a Martha Stewart special. I cannot think of any of those parties and not smell mulled cider.”

At the time of his death Keene was both managing his career and tending to his wife who was battling brain cancer. No matter what he was focused on, professionally or personally, Bob put every bit of energy into whatever he did. He lived life passionately.

HALL OF FAME - 2010


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